Souths coach Jason Demetriou has revealed he's planning to play Jack Wighton in the centres despite calls for him to be used in a more hands-on role. The Rabbitohs have snared Wighton from the Canberra Raiders in a huge coup for the 2024 season, where he will link up with good mate Latrell Mitchell.
Wighton has played the majority of his career at five-eighth, but will move out to the centres because Cody Walker already fills the No.6 jersey at Souths. Wighton has excelled in the centres for NSW and Australia, and Demetriou says that's where he'll most likely play at the Rabbitohs.
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“I just know Jack is going to make us a better footy team. At the moment, if I was to pick him, I’d pick him at left centre,” Demetriou told the Daily Telegraph.
“I’m going to spend time in the pre-season to see where Jack fits best. What I love about Jack is that he is committed to play wherever the team needs him to play. For a player of his stature to have that mindset, that rubs off on the rest of the team.”
Alex McKinnon calls for Wighton and Mitchell switch
Some have called for Wighton to be used at fullback or five-eighth, with Walker having the ability to play halfback as well. Last week Alex McKinnon said he would put Wighton at fullback and move Mitchell to five-eighth.
Mitchell copped widespread criticism for some lacklustre performances after returning from a calf injury late in the 2023 season. He wasn't able to recapture the form that helped Souths lead the competition early in the season, and they suffered an embarrassing fall from grace to miss the finals altogether.
"Mitchell has long been compared to NRL legend Greg Inglis, who played most of his career at fullback but also won a Clive Churchill Medal at five-eighth," McKinnon told Fox Sports. "Mitchell could play the same role in attack as well as he does at fullback, provide a real physical presence in the defence line and be more efficient with his efforts. I genuinely believe Walker is one of the most natural rugby league players of the 2000s and needs to be handed the reins at halfback while he’s still at the peak of his powers so he can truly own the result each week."
McKinnon said Wighton should play fullback due to his ability to bring the ball back and start sets on the front foot. "Jack Wighton at fullback will start their sets off right and I believe this will have a huge effect their consistency and ability to win in October," he added.
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But in September, leading journalist Paul Crawley said it would make "no sense" to move Mitchell. “They’ve bought Jack Wighton to play centre - they’re paying $800,000," he said on NRL 360. "They’ve got Campbell Graham, they’ve got Isaiah Tass. And if you want to move Latrell there and Jack back at fullback, Jack’s 31. It would make absolutely no sense and it would show up that they’ve got their recruitment wrong because if you’re not buying Jack to play centre, you’re not buying him to play fullback.”
NRL great Gorden Tallis said: “If it was about getting [Mitchell] into the action, fullback would be the spot for him." Braith Anasta added: “Whether people think he’s a centre or a fullback or vice versa, the solution is not moving him from fullback to centre."
Mitchell became a superstar while playing in the centres at the Roosters. He averaged 25 games per season at the Bondi club from 2016 to 2019, helping them win two premierships.
However it's been a very different story since he joined the Rabbitohs and moved to fullback. From 2020 to 2023 with Souths he has played just 64 games (16 per season), missing a staggering 37 games in four years. Among the games missed, 26 have come through injury, 10 because of suspension and one due to State of Origin duty. In four years at the Roosters he only missed six games (four through injury, one for a suspension and one for Origin).
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